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Information Openness Results in Singorojo Farmers Victory Over Their Land

1 August 2013

Singorojo Hamlet can be reached in more than three hours by motor vehicle from downtown Kendal, Central Java. Administratively, Singorojo Hamlet is in Limbangan District, Kendal Regency. This hamlet is very secluded and isolated because it is surrounded by thousand hectares of land owned by state and private companies based on cultivation rights (HGU) issued by the National Land Agency (BPN).

With more than 140 patriarchs who mostly work as tenant farmers, their lives are economically underdeveloped, which is ironic as they are surrounded by fertile land which is unfortunately owned by companies. What’s more unfortunate is that these thousand hectares of land that are planted with cocoa, rubber, bananas and others by companies are believed to belong to the farmers.

It is said that in order meet the high demand for agricultural products in Europe, the Dutch Colonial Government seized the land by evicting the locals without mercy. People of Singorojo Hamlet were some of the victims. They were evicted from their own land. They began their attempt to reclaim their rights to the land when Indonesia declared its independence, but their attempt was a false hope as after the Dutch left, their land was taken over by companies with HGU.

1998 reform was a momentum for many people to freely express their opinion and demand their rights. In Jomblang Singorojo, a group was established to demand their rights to their land. They started to take small steps by finding out how to reclaim their rights. As people that had lived under isolation, they realized it was not easy to realize their hope. There were many obstacles, such as the difficulty in convincing Jomblang Hamlet people to unite and intimidation from thugs paid by companies.

There was a turning point when Law No. 14/2008 about Public Information Openness (UU KIP) was enacted. The law guarantees people access to information and requires local governments, including the BPN to provide information for the people’s interest. The lack of transparency of land ownership became a problem when Jombang Hamlet people demanded their rights. With accompaniment from PATTIRO, Jomblang Hamlet people’s efforts to demand their land rights are carried out systematically.

From a series of Focus Group Discussion (FGD), it was finally agreed to from Community Center (CC) as a platform for people of Jomblang Hamlet in fighting for their land rights. The Community Center, which is also called Singorojo Farmers Community (PMPS), aims to fight for the land owned by companies with HGU.

PMPS is also equipped with organizational structure as a tool to carry out its task. PMPS consists of the entire community of Jomblang Hamlet which is important as it shows that PMPS is the only community organization of Jomblang Hamlet that is accepted by all. In the end, the community in PMPS became they key of success in demanding their rights over their land.

In order to organize their work in demanding their rights, PMPS had a regular meeting once a week. The meeting usually consisted of praying together to the Almighty God to avoid frictions between members. During the meeting, they discussed various things, such as information from inside or outside of the organization. The discussion was conducted to determine the direction of the organization’s strategy so that they would not be affected by rumors.

Before making reports to BPN, PMPS made sure the information for land dispute advocacy, such as history of land, proof of heritage and documents were complete. According to Article 27 of Agrarian Law No. 5/1960, right of ownership can be removed if land is taken over by the state, right is evoked based on article 18, land is voluntarily given by the owner, land is abandoned, or land is destroyed.

This information is used as basis for PMPS in making reports and asking for information to BPN. From this information, PMPS made a strategy for advocacy. The first step was to make minutes of the condition of the disputed land. It was stated that companies planted cocoa, bananas, cloves and others after replacing rice, corns and other plants planted by the people.

In fact, from 250 hectares of land owned by companies, only 10 percent was cultivated by companies. In 2008, the people secretly submitted Notification of Tax Due (SPPT) through Singorojo Village Chief of around 20 hectares of land. At that time, there was a government’s program about land distribution. PMPS’ next strategy was making a written report about the condition of the uncultivated land to BPN.

After conducting field investigation, BPN finally recommended that the 40-hectare land to be distributed to the people of Jomblang Hamlet.

http://en.kebebasaninformasi.org/2013/08/01/keterbukaan-informasi-berbuah-reklaiming-untuk-petani-singorojo/

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